BATON ROUGE, La. — For the first time, this year’s LSU men’s basketball team took the court Wednesday to kick off the 2016-17 season. The media was allowed to observe an hour worth of practice. Below are some assorted observations, as well as some video clips of what went down when the Tigers hit the court.
- Other than the one pre-existing injury, the team looked like it was pretty healthy entering fall training. As was expected, junior college transfer guard Branden Jenkins was held out of practice, but he did shoot around before the team took over the court, all the while wearing a brace on his injured knee. At his introductory press conference Tuesday, LSU coach Johnny Jones indicated that he has no timetable for when Jenkins will return from his injury.
- It was hard not to be impressed with transfer forward Duop Reath during the beginning of practice Wednesday. Despite his 6-foot-10, 230-pound frame, Reath proved himself to be a confident and competent shooter from the top of the key and a better-than-adequate defender in the paint. He also showcased some nifty footwork and seemed to have good court awareness. That said, Reath struggled mightily in ball-handling drills. Don’t expect the Australian junior college product to be competing for reps at point guard any time soon.
- It’s no secret that a lot of the pressure to score this season will fall onto the shoulders of sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney. Tuesday, Jones said that Blakeney has assumed a leadership role with the team, and that was evident Wednesday, as Blakeney was almost always the first person in line to run a drill, if not the player demonstrating what Jones was asking the players to do.
- Jones’ message to the players was simple: “Make sure you practice today like you would practice in April.” That sort of attention to detail shone through in Jones’ coaching tactics too. He paid particular attention to players like Reath and freshman guard Kieran Hayward who are new to the program, making sure to instill proper defensive technique into the newest Tigers, especially on the baseline and underneath the basket.
- A significant portion of practice was devoted to passing along the perimeter. The team spent at least 10 minutes drilling four-man ball-movement progressions, getting the ball quickly and efficiently from one corner to the other, before eventually working the ball into the paint. Jones split his 12 players into three teams of four to achieve this, with one team passing, another defending and the third on a rest period.